Urban Ring

bigeman312

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F-Line, what do you think about my proposed SL7 (Airport - Wellington), using the Silver Line Busway from Airport to Chelsea, then Everett Ave and Revere Beach Parkway to Wellington. To me, it seems like a low-cost, high-benefit bus route that would allow people to travel between points northeast (East Boston, Logan Airport, and Chelsea) and points north (Everett, Medford, and Malden) more easily without having to transfer downtown.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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F-Line, what do you think about my proposed SL7 (Airport - Wellington), using the Silver Line Busway from Airport to Chelsea, then Everett Ave and Revere Beach Parkway to Wellington. To me, it seems like a low-cost, high-benefit bus route that would allow people to travel between points northeast (East Boston, Logan Airport, and Chelsea) and points north (Everett, Medford, and Malden) more easily without having to transfer downtown.
The T likes the cut of your jib enough that 20 years ago it baked that route into the Crosstown network plan that they never finished. :)

  • CT1 - Central Square (Cambridge) to Andrew Station via Massachusetts Avenue
  • CT2 - Sullivan Square to Ruggles via Union Square (Somerville), Kendall Square and Boston University Bridge
  • CT3 - Longwood Medical Area to Airport Station and terminals via Ruggles, Boston Medical Center, and Ted Williams Tunnel
  • CT4 - Ruggles Station to UMass Boston Campus via Dudley Square and Uphams Corner
  • CT5 - Logan Airport to Sullivan Square via Downtown Chelsea, Wellington, and Assembly Square
  • CT6 - Downtown Chelsea to Kendall/MIT via Community College and Lechmere
  • CT7 - Kendall/MIT to Franklin Park via Mass Ave Bridge, Kenmore, Longwood Medical Area, Ruggles, Dudley, and Grove Hall
  • CT8 - Sullivan Square to Longwood Medical Area via Union Square Somerville, Central Square Cambridge, Cambridgeport, Boston University Bridge, and Fenway Station
  • CT9 - Kenmore to Harvard Square via Commonwealth Ave and Allston
  • CT10 - Kenmore to JFK/UMass via Longwood Medical Area, Ruggles, and Boston Medical Center
  • CT11 - Longwood Medical Area to Fields Corner via Ruggles, Boston Medical Center, and Uphams Corner
  • EC1* - Anderson Regional Transportation Center to MIT at Mass Ave via Sullivan Square, Lechmere, and Kendall
  • EC2* - Riverside to Lechmere via Mass Pike, Central Square, and Kendall
  • EC3* - Natick to Copley Square via Mass Pike
*EC = "Express Commuter"
 

bigeman312

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Is there a chance they implement any of those CT routes in the near future?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Is there a chance they implement any of those CT routes in the near future?
It wouldn't take much, since the CT#'s are ops-only and merely require adequate fleet sizes and action on the T's own Bus Facilities Strategic Plan. This stuff was all supposed to happen in the late-90's, but they cut-and-ran and now the plan is buried on Internet Archive like it never existed. So, you know...can't have nice things and all because reasons. :rolleyes:


Crosstown bus = Urban Ring Phase I (the all- on-street rollout). They are one and the same, with the Crosstowns copypasta'd verbatim into the UR scoping study as Phase 1 of 3. Lot of people get confused by that. And it is rather confusing, since the CT#'s are just an adaptable typical express bus system not unlike the MTA's Select Bus routes in NYC. While several of the CT#'s trace out the core mainline arcs in what's eventually supposed to become the dedicated-ROW UR Phase II, they're not entirely a transitional feature because some CT#'s don't go places traced out by the trunkline Ring. In a perfect world with good multi-modal transit strategy the Crosstowns that aren't supplanted by UR Phase II remain a distinct, permanent express system ripe for bigtime expansion in its own right. Indeed, a lot of what we're talking about over the last page of this thread re: UR spur routes are jobs that can/should/would be assigned to the Crosstowns instead. Because these UR transfer stops would've conveniently hit a lot of those new and remaining Crosstowns (prime example: CT1 @ Mass Ave.).

It probably would've had a better chance of being fully realized had the Crosstowns all stayed an independent project rather than being lumped in confusingly with the UR. That move confused the mission statement, and by grouping it with a very hard and expensive megaproject like UR Phase II made the ops-only, affordable Crosstowns that much easier to bury. Lots of cynicism in that move.

By all logic some MBTA GM who wasn't bound-and-gagged to cut, cut, cut would pull the Crosstown plan out of a file cabinet and have a "Eureka!" moment for something that could be applied fast. Faster than even so-called fast starts like the Indigo Lines. But we went through the Grabauskas, Davey, and Scott administrations--3 of the biggest transit-wonk 'idea' people to lead the agency in a long, long time--without so much as a peep. Not much optimism that's going to change anytime soon.
 

cybah

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https://www.massdot.state.ma.us/Portals/17/docs/Everett/EverettPublicMeeting41316.pdf

The Everett Transit Action Plan is looking at a lot of the ideas being discussed in this thread (including reorganizing the bus lines and sending the Silver Line from Chelsea to Wellington along Revere Beach Parkway). See the link above.

I'd love to comment about this plan but it's off topic :) Yeah a small section is about Silver Line extension and Revere Beach Parkway, but mainly its off topic. Maybe someone should start a new thread? :)
 

Digital_Islandboy

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F-Line, what do you think about my proposed SL7 (Airport - Wellington), using the Silver Line Busway from Airport to Chelsea, then Everett Ave and Revere Beach Parkway to Wellington. To me, it seems like a low-cost, high-benefit bus route that would allow people to travel between points northeast (East Boston, Logan Airport, and Chelsea) and points north (Everett, Medford, and Malden) more easily without having to transfer downtown.
Yes! That would be a common-sense terminus.
 

Upstruk

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I have posted the idea of an Ave De Lafayette Silver Line Portal in the past however recently I have been thinking about how it could be also be part of an overall expanded BRT network in Boston. As electric buses become common in the near future a two sided bus tunnel through downtown becomes more useful.

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My understanding is that the urban ring concepts in the past would have likely been a series of over lapping routes (not one continuous loop). Expanding upon this what if the urban ring is two loops that over lap in the middle. In this scheme the east and west loops would meet at Sullivan Sq Station run down a redesigned Rutherford Ave with bus lanes (or bus tunnel using the existing underpasses) into downtown. This route would then continue into the new bus tunnel and split at the existing D street portal.

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Above is the enlarged map through downtown for the bus route.
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This map highlights the parts of the loop which already have road way improvements contemplated which would improve bus service.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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I think my basic problem with the Urban Ring is the same as my basic problem with most transit plans based solely on cost: transit needs to be built where it serves the most number of people first and cost considerations should be second. The Urban Ring, like many modern transit plans (i.e. TriboroRX) is designed to be cheap but it doesn't necessarily connect people where they need to go and this is the most basic tenant of successful transit. Designing circumferential transit systems is a very tricky thing and will almost always lose out to radial lines in terms of ridership potential.

Boston, unlike most cities, actually has decentralized CBDs which can, in theory, be connected by a circular transit line; Harvard, Kendall, Longwood, and now the SBW. Radial lines still serve these areas better than the Urban Ring could. The trade off of the UR is that it transfers resources away from improving the inner core stations and lines in favor of new, riskier lines and stations around the inner core.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to new transit; do you build transit based on existing demand or do you build transit where you think new demand will be created because of improved transit? Both should be considered together.

The reason I've favored converting the Green Line into a ring type transit system is that it does both at the same time, over time so that the core is strengthened and new rings can be added when the demand is within sight. The "Urban Ring" is a sexy PR idea but what is really needed are multiple rings, some rail but mostly bus, to open up new commuting options people wouldn't have though about before. Houston recently did this with apparent success. Boston is perfect for this type of rethinking.

My point, as it pertains to this proposal, is that don't think about JUST buses downtown but rather evaluate each link within the ring to see what is the best use of resources in any one area. Your aren't going to need 2 loops of buses running though clogged downtown streets, you just need circumferential lines that connect to central transit hubs. Commuters only take what they THINK is faster so they will naturally transfer from bus to train at South Station, Kendall Sq, Kenmore Sq or Sullivan Sq. No now will ever ride from one end of the loop to the other when a radial line will get them there faster. Design a bus system that works that way with improvements to the core to handle the new riders.

******************************TL;DR*******************************************************

To break it down: the section from Dudley Sq to SBW does not need to exist when the Washington St Corridor needs to be improved as is already. The amount of people needing to travel from Dudley Sq to WTC is so low, and will always be so low, that having one line through downtown will be the only acceptable option. The loops through downtown may seem sexy but are totally useless. Spend the money on more trains to handle the crowds at Sullivan Sq where the vast majority of riders will be getting off. In Cambridge, what is a bigger hub, Kendall, Central or Harvard? This is tricky so maybe there are two loops? But again you need to consider where people are transferring, especially with the development of Allston.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I have posted the idea of an Ave De Lafayette Silver Line Portal in the past however recently I have been thinking about how it could be also be part of an overall expanded BRT network in Boston. As electric buses become common in the near future a two sided bus tunnel through downtown becomes more useful.



My understanding is that the urban ring concepts in the past would have likely been a series of over lapping routes (not one continuous loop). Expanding upon this what if the urban ring is two loops that over lap in the middle. In this scheme the east and west loops would meet at Sullivan Sq Station run down a redesigned Rutherford Ave with bus lanes (or bus tunnel using the existing underpasses) into downtown. This route would then continue into the new bus tunnel and split at the existing D street portal.



Above is the enlarged map through downtown for the bus route.


This map highlights the parts of the loop which already have road way improvements contemplated which would improve bus service.
This map replicates too much of the overreach with the T's own conceptual studies with Phase III: it overvalues modal and mapmaking integrity-of-concept to an extreme degree over real patterns of utilization and demand. See the list of CT# routes further up the page. Those are the identified ridership patterns that need to move people from A to B a lot faster, more frequently, and with higher capacity. Overlaid on a map you get a trace outline of the generally agreed-upon shape of the Ring, plus some other key routes. But in no one case are those Crosstown routes taking their demand around a real half-circle. The highest-demand patterns are small arcs...no greater than a quadrant's worth of that ring shape. And those arcs correspond mainly to two-or-more seat trips banging between transfer points. The network's utility is all about facilitating fast and frequent transfers to intersecting lines of every mode: local bus, other crosstown/express bus, rapid transit, commuter rail, and the multi-mode terminals.

But it's not a real-world "loop". Too low a percentage of people are going to ride it as a loop. It's "arcs"...and the ridership overturns so quickly from arc to arc that hitting an optimal level of service efficiency for the investment is a tight balancing act. The problem is that ring shape is so very seductive on a map; it looks like such an obvious one-seat ride that should be its own big, bold color on the rapid transit spider map. Especially on that grade-separated north end. And, yes, there are people who need to ride in different combinations than the CT# routes, so it is very tempting to start conjoining those arcs and lengthening the service patterns on the route...until terminus-to-terminus does start looking like a loop and a big bold color on the spider map. Extremely, extremely tempting...because each individual rider and micro-constituency is going to have their own soapbox about where the trips should begin and end so they can ride on the fewest seats possible for their cumulative trip.


That's not how this can work in the real world. It's a secondary circulation project addressing an audience of two-plus- seat rides. That means the other legs of the trip pre- and post- transfer are just as important as the trip on the Ring. Including on the same old local bus routes that get bisected by it; the Ring intersection is what makes those last-mile locals function correctly for the first time in half a century. The Ring's only job is to trim the fat out of the transfer process and serve those on-line demand arcs.

Anything that tries to stretch the UR service patterns' role beyond bang-bang-bang efficient transfers and bullseyeing that fattest ridership point in the bell curve for the identified "arcs" starts pulling it off-focus. Anything that tries to cast it as its own distinct "line" on the system map starts warping its focus by distending more short-turns or quick on/off service patterns into conventional "line" schedules with headways across the Ring--including on the quickie jaunts--set top-down by the schedules that have to move the longest distance around the Ring (see: Green Line, short-turns and institutional allergy towards short-turning). Any gravitation towards "we need to facilitate more one-seat rides" starts diluting its focus. Any hand-wring about how this has got to be ALL bus or ALL trolley for the sanctity of that color on the spider map is succumbing to another bad case of Silver Line-itis. Anything whatsoever about this whole effort that makes planners forget they have to make big investments in the boring old neglected local-numbered Yellow bus routes out of these transfer stops because they're building the Ring...means forgetting why they're trying to build the Ring in the first place. And anything that dilutes that focus with mission creep about "integrity of concept" on a map means it's at catastrophic risk of whiffing on its cost/efficiency target.

This is exactly what Van's post is getting at. The Triboro RX is a cautionary tale, not an aspirational one. Every planning fight over the Triboro concept has ended up driving itself completely off a cliff synthesizing the demands of every micro-constituency until it inexorably gets pulled into a one-seat "line" on a unified mode on a spider map. And once it's hit that point, people can no longer explain what it's supposed to do...why it costs so much for what it's supposed to be doing...and why they're even bothering to entertain the notion when the same money put into the CBD or linear expansion looks better spent. Until the next "cheaper! buildable! better-focused!" rehash inevitably gets proposed, and people forgot why the last attempt completely lost the plot. You can see a lot of the Triboro RX lineage in the billion-dollar cross-Brookline tunnel concepts from the original UR study, where the consultants were so wedded to their integrity-of-concept that they seriously thought they could re-fight I-695 Inner Belt construction through the same neighborhoods. Same can be said about constructing big honking river crossings for BRT on pre-existing rail lines, or running streetcars down ridiculously narrow Longwood Ave./Ruggles St. and through the South Bay interchange...completely loses the plot by overvaluing integrity-of-concept.



I agree with Van here. Focus on the ID'd demand patterns and think of this as a collection of projects towards a goal, not a monolith and not an exercise in spider mapmaking. There are 3 more or less agreed-upon pieces of the northern shape of the Ring: Brickbottom-Logan via Sullivan and Chelsea, Brickbottom-BU via Kendall and Cambridgeport, and a Harvard spur. They're all on rail lines...and there's two Green Line interfaces, to GLX's Brickbottom Jct. and the B Line at BU Bridge. Approach those as branchline builds...one at a time. You have a Green Line Logan Branch...maybe you do that first since SL Gateway put a placeholder on about 1.5 miles of the route. You have a Green Line Grand Junction Branch fed in either direction as a branch out of Lechmere or a branch out of a subwayed Kenmore/BU Central. That's a whole separate project. Maybe you do that second. Maybe when you have 2 + 2 together you try running a minority of the service patterns thru from Sullivan to Kendall or start slicing-and-dicing with short-turns. Then there's the Harvard spur. That's pretty much teed up as the "new" A-Line going from BU to Harvard-Allston to Harvard Sq. And then you plug-and-play with whatever works for run-thrus from MIT.

^But you're basically approaching it like building three 3-mile branches, hopefully in far less tortured fashion than GLX. And treating the primary service patterns like standard branches...just with a bit more leeway than before to shape-shift as necessary. It's conservative; it's not trying to create a whole-cloth color line on the map running from Logan to Kenmore via Cambridge.


Forget about light rail west or east of Dudley...that's an exercise in torture. This has to be a bus. That means you better get Silver Line Washington hooked up to light rail, because that linear spine to the CBD is going to get a lot more load-bearing. Kenmore-Longwood-Dudley...not a lot of grade separation or bus laneage to be had anywhere. That's probably going to have to be some very finely-tuned CT# express route. Do your best with what you've got to work with, but you're probably going to have to keep that route very *taut* with no overreach to make it work.

Dudley-east?...Melnea Cass can be BRT'd its entire length, and Southie Haul Road can double as a dedicated transit ROW dumping you straight into a (hopefully dual-trolley/BRT) Transitway. Silver Line branch...totally and obviously.

Last link in the chain? We already built that...it's SL1. So make excellent use of the bus capability of the Transitway if it goes dual-use: trolleys to/from downtown to SL Way, SL1 and "UR1" to/from South Station. Those end up the Big Three "branches" out of the Seaport that everyone remembers. Nice and elegant, no overreach.

^^That's the network. Attack it arc by arc using the nearest available mode and nearest available color branding suitable for the task, establish the obvious primary "arc" service patterns first before doodling around on a more flexible canvas with minor variations, and string up an unnamed network of demand patterns. Some of it is integrated to Green, some of it is integrated to Silver, some of it can either be "bastardized Silver" or Crosstown or whatever it is you want to call an express bus that runs in mixed traffic with only bits and pieces of available bus lanes.

But it's a network of demand patterns, not a distinct new entrant on the spider map. Resist every architectural bone in your body that's enamored with integrity-of-concept for integrity-of-concept's sake...because the only end point for that creeping mentality is the same ditch Triboro RX finds itself in every time it's revived anew.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Perhaps a better way to conceptualize this...



^This is the spider map for Denver FasTracks, the present-day darling of transpo planners nationwide. Built in one enormous burst under one regional funding compact, and delivered under-budget and ahead of schedule. With the RTD transit district now loading up for bear for Round 2 of expansion. But what is FasTracks, exactly? There's some lines that are commuter rail, some that are light rail, a BRT route, a funky set of merge/diverge loopage around downtown on multiple touching modes, and some purely end-of-line transfers to get to outer destinations. There's a lot of distinctly self-contained and independent pieces to it, and it's extremely heterogeneous in makeup. Yes, they all intersect at the same CBD nerve center of terminals and transfer points like a clean-roomed small-scale equivalent of our Park/DTX/State/GC/etc. nodes. But this is more like a pu-pu platter of individual Green, Silver, and Purple Line projects. There is no "FasTracks Line". How were they able to sell this in one financing deal to a bunch of different community governments and legislative districts when there's no one distinct thing they can point to demonstrating "See this thing right here behind the ribbon-cutting...this is what your tax dollars paid for"?


It's the network, silly! RTD needed to throw a thick net of rapid transit options on its city to address Denver's mobility needs present and future. And, counterintuitively to how old East Coasters perceive planning, the cleanest way to sell that net on constituencies who had wildly varying travel needs and transit reliance was to sell that wad of transit exactly as it appears: a big ol' wad. They resisted the temptation to let integrity-of-concept OCD get the best of them. It's 3 different non-interlining modes. It's a bunch of branchlines. It's a bunch of transfer points. It's the boring old local buses being scaled-up at the transfer points. Outside of the terminal district, no discrete stretch of construction is dependent on any other to make the mesh do what it's supposed to do. The pieces didn't all open at the same time. Indeed, some of the tougher ones with fast-escalating cost estimates have been regrouped into Phase 2 where the next big ol' wad is spaced out by almost 20 years...even though those pieces are considered essential parts of the project that must be completed under firm commitments. Yet these demands somehow did not cripple their ability to "walk and chew gum at the same time" (
).


The East Coast is still shackled to a very Robert Moses mentality on how to civilly engineer itself. Things here in Massachusetts (and in sometimes greater degrees, NYC) frequently get proposed as monoliths. If any one part of the project gets snagged, the whole project gets snagged and becomes a war of attrition to get its inertia back in motion. Jeez...half of the Dev forum is us banging our heads against the wall over buildings and spaces that get bogged down endlessly in planning over the chintziest shit. And when projects are posed as networks, if any one part of the network doesn't get built...the whole network goes to hell in a handbasket. To whit:



^^We didn't build ALL of the planned metro expressway network, so NONE of what we did build ever worked correctly. That's a monolithic approach to planning. The whole beast had to counterbalance itself as if it were "one line"...and when we couldn't deliver, it failed. Then we came back 40 years later with the fix for the failure...and it was another network-as-monolith colossus. Even grander and more tortured than the last one.

Old habits die hard. This has been the prevailing mentality here since WWII. Including on transit. Nearly every postwar expansion proposal has been discrete, monolithic, linear extensions. Or going station-to-station in excruciatingly slow steps. "Lines"...one-seat always...single-constituency...and feeding right into the wood-chipper of balkanized mutually destructive Masshole local politics. It's Somerville's Green Line, not the Commonwealth's...remember? We have to shackle a Roxbury bus route to Airport BRT for our spider map color integrity-of-concept...and goddamnit we can't fail with that whole midsection dig of pain! We can't stage commuter rail out to Fall River and New Bedford in manageable chunks to net a functional final result; we have to make those two completely different cities 15 miles apart conjoined twins "Fall River/New Bedford" who'll die if they don't get everything simultaneously, work the planning from the arse end of the line back up 50 miles to Boston, and cripple the whole fucker while papering-over the evidence when we hit trouble because...screw everyone else, swing voters and my pol friends in Bristol County need to get paid!

Even projects that truly are a transit network for transit networking's sake, like North-South Rail Link, end up coming out all ham-fisted on the sales pitch because of this mentality. So much about: "Oooh, you can go from Needham to Rockport and Hingham to Wachusett...ON ONE SEAT!" So little about the eleventy other more consequential things it enables like doubling, tripling, quintupling frequencies on many/most of the mainlines. Or intricate service layering. Or enabling much more robust last-mile suburban bus networks feeding these boosted frequencies. Or finally making each dollar northside riders spend for fares have as much transit utility as every dollar currently much better-off southside riders spend. Because all of that is really like 10 separate projects rolled in one: build the damn tunnel with stations, increase the service, make all the infrastructure and rolling stock upgrades to increase the service, invest big in the suburban transfer bus network, invest big in the rapid transit and central bus network to handle the hugely increased loads, remake the entire CR network's fare structure around the new classes of service patterns and transfer types, and linearly extend the network to all the outer places that gain shit-hot newfound demand because of these network changes and their demographic effects on the inner 'burbs. You can't just build the NSRL, have a self-satisfying ribbon-cutting for a monolith well done, and run the same old commuter rail schedules the same way...but, now, MOAR TUNNEL! That kind of orders-of-magnitude failure of execution is what happens when monolithic build-level thinking eclipses whole-network -level thinking.


----------------------------------

So think of the UR (and NSRL) as kindred spirits with what Denver FasTracks is doing. As builds go, you have these discrete components to the Ring network...not one "line".

  • 3 wholly separate Green Line branches: Chelsea/Logan via Brickbottom; "Grand Junction Branch" connected to a BU Central subway extension and the GLX/Brickbottom junction at the other; Harvard Branch off the same BU junction. Harvard probably the one that could/would get punted to a Phase 2 'wad' in the FasTracks funding model if this is too many projects overall to have in varying stages of progress during the Phase 1 'wad'.
  • 1 'proper' Silver Line branch: Transitway to Dudley.
  • 1 'mongrel' BRT branch: Kenmore to Dudley. (I'm trying not to sound pessimistic about the street-running; it can be done effectively-to-task if street config isn't undermined by the neighborhoods)
  • 1 fully existing Silver Line branch: SL1/SL Gateway
Any of these can be done out-of-sequence, at different times, with segmented funding. The service patterns are primarily branch-like, but with increasing flexibility on each mode to try different service patterns on the network fitted to some other demand pattern (or try and try again if a particular alt. routing just doesn't take off and needs to change). But to get it all strung up it's best sold as a 'wad', not a 'line'. Give every constituency something to buy into. The most important thing in the world to Chelsea is that Logan branch pinging Blue, Orange/Sullivan terminal, North Station/CR, GC loop and/or somewhere thru on the Central Subway, and all the last-mile intersecting bus routes. To them the MIT/BU branch is a nice-to-have, but they're going to guard their priorities jealously (as they should!). Ditto the inverse for Cambridge, MIT, the Kendall tech centers, and CT2 patrons. Ditto the people who have to traverse the tough Longwood corridor to get to work. These parts don't have to be built simultaneously, but the commitment to build AND fund has to reach across provincial lines and get everyone buying into the same network. The way Denver RTD did it. And completely unlike the monolithic way these projects have been sold here in the past.


And that's not all. You have dependencies for making this work right.

  • Washington St. light rail. Because if you're left with a balancing act of BRT flavors with asymmetric levels of grade separation tracing out the SW and SE quadrants of the Ring, you're going to need a more robust rapid transit spine from downtown piping linearly out to Dudley to join these two quadrant BRT routes.
  • Transitway-Downtown link. Or at least a go-for-it plan to clean up the wreckage of Silver Line Phase III with a feasible replacement connector to the Green Line...even if it takes 20 years to sort through all the studies, community input, design/build, and funding torture tests. The Seaport needs a strong rapid transit pipe to downtown, or the joining of the SE and NE (SL1) quadrants won't work.
  • Congestion management on the existing rapid transit lines. But none moreso than Red. See above with the Transitway connector. And Red-Blue. And rolling back the fast-worsening downtown platform dwells with modern signaling that's 'self-healing' for bunching and ped flow improvements to Park & DTX (Red-Blue and Transitway-Downtown largely take care of the rest).
  • A robust Crosstown express bus network. Because not every one of the CT#'s ID'd for major demand conforms to the ring shape, but nearly all the non-Ring routes cross that ring shape in some form and will need high-octane transfer frequencies on both sides of the transfer.
  • A Key Bus Route Improvements program on steroids. The local Yellow bus routes intersecting these Ring segments can't continue to be perpetual fifth-class citizens. The whole network is dependent on cleaning up those last-mile feeders by hitting them midway through and shortening distance to final destination. It doesn't do enough good if the local routes' frequencies still blow, and get stuck in traffic on poorly-signaled/poorly-configured streets. This can't get lost in the shuffle.


You get the idea. It's a great big 'wad', and if you don't conceptualize it from Day 1 in terms of distributed network of parts whose sum is greater than whole, it's going to come unglued by the same monolithic Moses-mentality thinking that's really starting to fail the Eastern cities who can't bust out of their planning sloth while a bunch of our Western counterparts are successfully getting lots more nimble. Again...heed the caution of Triboro RX. If we fall into a single-line/Triboro kind of planning trap with the UR, it not only isn't going to get done but it can never be objectively justified in real dollars and sense from the bottom of that trap. Sell the network, not the spider map color.
 

Equilibria

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PBuilt in one enormous burst under one regional funding compact, and delivered under-budget and ahead of schedule. With the RTD transit district now loading up for bear for Round 2 of expansion. But what is FasTracks, exactly? There's some lines that are commuter rail, some that are light rail, a BRT route, a funky set of merge/diverge loopage around downtown on multiple touching modes, and some purely end-of-line transfers to get to outer destinations. There's a lot of distinctly self-contained and independent pieces to it, and it's extremely heterogeneous in makeup. Yes, they all intersect at the same CBD nerve center of terminals and transfer points like a clean-roomed small-scale equivalent of our Park/DTX/State/GC/etc. nodes. But this is more like a pu-pu platter of individual Green, Silver, and Purple Line projects. There is no "FasTracks Line".
But that analysis belies the question: does it all work? The reason that you go for a consolidated vision is flexibility and connections. In Denver, nothing interlines. Very little connects. Service quality varies widely across the "combined map". Compare that to systems built with a unified vision (Washington Metro, BART, MAX) where the agency has additional operational flexibility and the population has a better idea of the quality of transit they can expect.

It's a tough thing to measure. FasTracks has about 30% of the T's weekday ridership as compared to 55% of the service area population. The MBTA has two subway lines with over 200K weekday riders, while the entire FasTracks system has only 337K. Would those numbers be higher if RTD had gone with a unified concept? Dunno, but Tri-Met has approximately the same number of boardings (321K) with just over half the population served (1.5 million).

You can build it on-time and on-budget, but are you actually doing the job? People may be pissed with the MBTA, but there's no denying that it does its job the vast majority of the time. A system like Metro or BART may be underfunded and overpriced, but when it works properly, it fully serves its city's needs. I'm not sure I can say that about FasTracks.
 

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But that analysis belies the question: does it all work? The reason that you go for a consolidated vision is flexibility and connections. In Denver, nothing interlines. Very little connects. Service quality varies widely across the "combined map". Compare that to systems built with a unified vision (Washington Metro, BART, MAX) where the agency has additional operational flexibility and the population has a better idea of the quality of transit they can expect.

It's a tough thing to measure. FasTracks has about 30% of the T's weekday ridership as compared to 55% of the service area population. The MBTA has two subway lines with over 200K weekday riders, while the entire FasTracks system has only 337K. Would those numbers be higher if RTD had gone with a unified concept? Dunno, but Tri-Met has approximately the same number of boardings (321K) with just over half the population served (1.5 million).

You can build it on-time and on-budget, but are you actually doing the job? People may be pissed with the MBTA, but there's no denying that it does its job the vast majority of the time. A system like Metro or BART may be underfunded and overpriced, but when it works properly, it fully serves its city's needs. I'm not sure I can say that about FasTracks.
It's too hard to measure yet with FasTracks being so new. But the important thing to remember is that this is not another Red Line. It's a secondary distribution network. One not defined by a single build because the transfers--the pre-existing and future CT#'s, the local buses, the general health-and-wellbeing of the rapid transit intersects--are what makes it the network it is to greater degree than even the high-demand 'arc' corridors it traces. It's not a monolithic build because it can't put blinders on to all the other modes it hits. Much like building NSRL but forgetting to remake commuter rail service levels, it's nothing if the trunkline spines and last-mile transfers uniformly suck. It's a systemic transit treatment. That's where the FasTracks comparison becomes a *somewhat* (yes...apples-oranges and all that) useful comparison, and that tractor beam in NYC that keeps pulling Triboro RX debate into that "uniform line on a spider map" dead-end a cautionary tale. We can't think of this the same way as other linear transit lines because it doesn't work the same way.

So, no...this is not going to amass 200K weekday riders because of the overchurn of riders from 'arc' to arc. And because of the focus on multiple-seat transfers, where the same riders are likelier to have varying trip configurations due to varying day-to-day itineraries than your average subway commuter going through the gut of downtown every single day on the same commute. e.g. Need to go shopping, need to go to class after work...you may not ride a Ring route all 5 days of the week despite trip originating at the same home/work door-to-door.

That doesn't mean it isn't a worthy project. It is; it's at least a Top Four, maybe a hair ahead of NSRL (but without as much statewide political juice). But its advocacy isn't going to go anywhere useful without a different kind of sell job. It's strung up with discrete pieces, discrete schedules, probably even discrete funding shots...but the pieces only justify their cost/benefit if the commitment is ironclad to seeing the phases through until it's a full network. Including upgrades to the transfer modes like the local Yellow Line. The only way to see that commitment through with any degree of confidence is to structure it so it doesn't fall prey to factionalization...i.e. those the same old "that color line doesn't go to my neighborhood, so who the hell cares about them?" provincial fractures endemic to this city. Meaning, a different kind of package sale to the communities where number of community buy-ins is the carrot-and-stick that makes it happen instead of the totality of one community's buy-in being the difference and commitments staying only as strong as other communities refraining from knifing it in the back. Those ties have to bind, or entropy eventually has its way with things.

It's a lot of unknowns, whether we can approach this in a way that'll actually get it built with buy-in. But we all got an abject lesson yesterday in how badly the Massachusetts Way is starting to fail us. We can't get public works shit done anymore. It's end-stage gridlocking, and our planners don't know anything else than "we've always done it this way and it's never worked, so let's keep doing what we know". Fine...if we're too set in our ways to change, now's the time for our fearless leaders to start the big pivot to the inevitable choking-off of this region's growth that's coming in the next dozen because we've hit our ceiling on what mobility we're capable of supporting. Start prepping for the lowered expectations era so we glide into the great leveling-off gently instead of by-surprise. If that's the Massachusetts Way and it truly is genetic and unchangeable, then that's what instinct should be telling us is best for survival of the species.

I really hope that's not true because I don't want to watch the brain drain creep over the region when I start getting into my late years in the workforce. But we're gonna have to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time on public works and public service. Somehow, in some way very differently structured and executed than that sadly predictable display put on yesterday.
 

CSTH

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Doesn't nsrl 'sbahn' service address a lot of the objectives of the urban ring? Van nailed it - Boston is polycentric - the issue is serving employment centers beyond the Shawmut peninsula, not (or not only) relieving pressure on core of existing system
 

tangent

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People adapt to the transportation system that exists. I think you need to distinguish between sustainability of the existing system to which people are adapted and what is needed to sustain growth.
 

Upstruk

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Very good points that the urban ring concept is best not thought of literary as a ring around the city. I thought of some of these ideas after looking at the Everett Transit Action Plan. https://www.massdot.state.ma.us/Portals/17/docs/Everett/EverettPublicMeeting41316.pdf

This study inspired the idea to rebuild Rutherford Ave with public transit priority in mind and link this with the Seaport Silver line. Everett riders would use a direct connection into Downtown Boston and Rutherford Ave will be rebuilt in the near future. These Everett express buses would also ease congestion on the Orange Line which is well over capacity during rush hour south of Wellington.

Once this bus crosses the Charles into Downtown, Everett riders will likely have a destination other than North Station. The same logic does with Chelsea riders on the new Silver Line Gateway, South Station is not likely their final destination. Why not link a bus route through Downtown that links the Seaport and North Station via South Station. I believe this would be a popular route for riders commuting from Everett and Chelsea but also for people traveling around Downtown. If you are at Government Center and want to go to the Seaport or South Station would you hop on the bus or take the Green Line to Park and transfer to Red and then transfer to Silver?

This scheme misses the surface traffic around Dewey Sq through a new transit way tunnel extension to Ave De Layfayette and would only be in limited mixed traffic on Washington Street. There will be traffic around Government Center and North Station, but it would be worth a traffic study to see how fast buses could move between North Station and the new portal.

Creating Everett express bus routes to and through Downtown, creating a second entrance to the Silver Line Transit Way to receive these buses, and rebuilding Rutherford Ave with transit in mind are all individual projects and be be conceived of as such, but also work together to expand the network.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Doesn't nsrl 'sbahn' service address a lot of the objectives of the urban ring? Van nailed it - Boston is polycentric - the issue is serving employment centers beyond the Shawmut peninsula, not (or not only) relieving pressure on core of existing system
Not really. Because it's another through-the-gut operation that is going to dump many tens of thousands more riders on the subway system. Every line can't run thru all of the time, much less trade off at an infinite array of run-thrus to different lines and cross-platform transfers.

The underground north + south terminal districts probably don't have more than 75-80% the total throughput of existing southside Cove interlocking and northside Tower 1. It is, after all, only 2 tracks of NEC + Worcester merging with 2 tracks of Fairmount + Old Colony, diverging into 2 tracks of Fitchburg + 2 tracks of NH Main/Eastern/Western. On the surface you have 5 tracks from NEC/Worcester merging with 4 tracks from Fairmount/OC at Cove, and if Drawbridge #3 goes back in up north it'll be 6 tracks diverging into 2 + 5 at Tower 1. Now, being able to run in orderly single-file through the tunnel vs. juggle terminating trains on the surface makes the discrepancy at these merges a LOT smaller than it looks on raw track count. But you aren't getting anything close to S-Bahn levels of service strictly through the tunnel. The surface terminals have to be used 100%...in their near/mid-term expanded forms...to fill out total system capacity to the limit of all the mainlines. You also can't feasibly skip the subway by sending a couple hundred thousand people per day dancing between underground commuter rail platforms. North Station Under and South Station Under are at most going to have 4 island platforms of 2 tracks each to fit in the confines of the cavern. Probably not much wider than the standard width of one of the surface terminal islands. And if Central Station is built...probably only 2 or 3 islands, and considerably shorter.

So, yes...Red, Green, Orange, Blue, and Silver-Transitway are going to see enormous ridership increases at the very same transfer nodes we worry about oversaturating right now. And it'll take a systemic approach to keep that from becoming a big problem. You need BLX load-diverting from the North Shore. You so very desperately need Red-Blue and Seaport-Downtown siphoning transfer traffic away from Park and DTX. You most definitely need to scrape the Needham Line off onto the ends of Green and Orange (if Amtrak's NEC FUTURE plan doesn't beat NSRL to the punch in forcing that involuntary move). And in this universe...Urban Ring becomes a requirement, not a branding debate. You have to be able to have:

  • high-capacity BRT hitting Ruggles/Dudley and beefier Washington St. LRT to draw some more bodies off the NEC before BBY and the terminal district
  • a light rail line at/near West Station twinning up with Yawkey down the street from Kenmore (and terminus of the Dudley BRT) taking an edge off the Worcester Line before it hits BBY
  • light rail at Chelsea doing a further siphon off the North Shore and diverting riders who would otherwise be doing the transfer dance at North Station onto Orange for Sullivan/Assembly, and Green + Red @ Park for Cambridge.
  • have more distribution of cross-platform transfers for getting to Logan. If you're coming in from New Hampshire for a flight, you don't have to pick a tunnel train that's going to be slamming narrow Central Station or SS+SL1 in the CBD with even more luggage-bearing passengers on those 100 ft. escalators to the next level. Surface slot or tunnel slot...North Station will always have an outbound Green transfer that gets you there.




Like I said...kindred spirits. This is all network reimaging stuff very very foreign to Boston planners. If building the UR "line" and forgetting to mind the quality of service on every single unrelated mode that intersects it at a transfer is the pound-foolish way to squander the value proposition of that project...then building NSRL but leaving commuter rail operations stet and putting blinders on re: the radial distribution demands that real S-Bahn -like service would bring is the pound-foolish way to build an only moderately useful $4B monument to monument-building.


Any which way, it's change or stagnate. There is no comfort in clinging to the Massachusetts Way like it's unchanging genetics. It's either A) overcome that existential obstacle, or B) make our collective selves useful by preparing for the great downsizing that'll have to take place to make the rest of the 21st century governable inside such a limited worldview.


"B" could easily be how it rolls. And if so, that is that; we have to pivot to making life bearable inside what we can forever do and not do. Show of hands as to how many of you still want to be living here if Plan B is the forever verdict?
 

whighlander

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A whole lot of the above discussion is already anachronistic

As George Patton said about fixed fortifications in the age of Maneuver Warfare --
"Fixed fortifications are monuments to man's stupidity."
The same is true about fixed routing of most of the transportation network -- patterns of use evolve and if the network doesn't you get left behind in the dust

40 years ago no one would image that anyone would want to go the Seaport / Innovation District from Cambridge -- yet that would have been the time to have dug-up any part of that future district that you wanted to in order to be ready for 2020 -- the land was free, you didn't have to do anything fancy just dig a trench and then cover it

30 years ago there was really not much in Kendall except tech Square and what was left of Polaroid -- no one had heard of the Human Genome

In just 15 years it will be 2030 -- so this is the time to build to accommodate the unknown patterns of living and working -- but what patterns are we following

One key advantage of not investing in more fixed rails is that vehicles that don't need to follow the rails are fundamentally more flexible. Of course vehicles that can use the rails when they are there, and then get off the rails when they need to go somewhere else are even better.

And most importantly -- the worst use of scarce resources is to make politicians happy about some stupid phrase that they probably got from a consultant -- Exhibit #1 -- "One Seat Ride"

A much better catch phrase is the Old Sun Microsystems statement about networks and computing
The Network is the Computer.
-- or the even more venerable phrase from the original ATT
The system is the solution
Future optimize transportation is all about interlinking networks to deliver the most efficient, and effective means of getting the folks from where they are to where they need to go. And that includes using the concepts of Zipcar, Bridji, Uber, etc combined with the fleets of buses carrying people point to point or sometimes point to multipoint. Like Uber the dedicated buses and jitneys operated by all manner of entities should be able to pick-up and drop off general passengers -- with some sort of digital payments made to the company operating the bus and perhaps the T for the privilege of formally interfacing

Then the T would serve as the backbone network [Tier One Provider in Telecom-speak] with all the various other things connecting at the T's hubs delivering the customer the "Last Mile" or in this case the last distance whatever [e.g. 128 Business Shuttle picking and dropping at Alewife]
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Translated:
Now let me fetch that whitepaper about how flying frickin' driverless PRT cars that float outside your Lexington window to pick you up in the morning, drop you off at your Kendall desk, and give you a foot massage en route are the way the innovation economy is gonna save us. Also, they give a great birds' eye view of our self-sustaining highway network.

(Billy Bulger Transit Agency!)
 

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